Executions in Bratislava

Bloody Theatre

Executions and punishments in Bratislava had a form of public performances – no matter if we talk about pillorying, whipping, torturing, and even execution itself. Crowds of people even with children gathered there to see it and we can consider it a form of purifying ritual, where the entire society got rid of evil. 

Even though in the Late Middle Ages was this type of public presentation of justice important for keeping the morale, with the progressing Humanism and changes in social atmosphere the blood and death right in the centre became an unwelcomed guest. For this reason, the executions moved behind the walls, in Bratislava it was in front of Michalská Brána gate – same as the Butcher´s fair ended up on Primacial Square. But before this transfer, many executions were executed at the main square and some of them stuck in mind. 

Because the punishments didn´t avoid the nobility, in 1601 Michal Tekeši, the master of Lednice Castle was executed at the square. He was no diplomat and instead of taking care of his property he became a robber. And he was no Jánošík – robbing the poor and the rich as well. What brought him to the gallows was an armed assault of a company transferring jewels and gifts for the unfamous ruler Rudolf II. At first he escaped to Poland but Juraj Thurzo  lured him back to Slovak territory where he was arrested and also executed. Among other executed people we can mention a story of preacher Mikuláš Drábik, who was 83-years-old at the time of is execution. 

We are in 1671 some two two-hundred years after the “bloody Middle Ages” and as we can see the executions still remain a part of public life. This old man was guilty of preaching about the decline of the Habsburg dynasty and the Pope, his statements were, however, heavily affected by alcohol. No matter the truth, his ideas were spreading among intellectuals like Ján Amos Komenský. Many people ended up on scaffold - noblemen, clergymen, and poor people and while the rich ones could buy themselves out of the crime, their scape from death was not always granted.  This tradition was slowly transferring from the public behind the prison walls and this public theatre changed into the public announcements. As a matter of interest, the last prisoner execution in Bratislava took place in 1989. 

Life of Executioner 

Although this man wasn´t judging he was an important man in the process of administration of justice – we are talking about the executioner. The executioner in the medieval Bratislava had wider authority than torturing and beheading of convicts. Symbolically he took care of the moral purity of the town and at the same time he was responsible for that physical. Thanks to his profession was executioner considered unclean  - that made him the best candidate for cleaning latrines and sewers, heating the town hall, and when it was necessary also managing brothels. 

The executioner also had his helpers, who were mockingly called the earl of dirt and the king of excrements. It may sound that Bratislava had serious problems with hygiene but in fact Bratislava was not such dirty city – there was a bathhouse with a long tradition. Back to the executioner and his social position, it was not black and wite as well. On one side he was connected with dirt and blood and on the other side he could make quite good money and have a specific social status, although only marginal. 

Another bait, beside the salary, was a living near today´s Primacial Palace but on the other side the forfeit for being an executioner was a social exclusion. Not only the physical but also a certain character predisposition was needed for this profession because beating with stick and bones breaking demanded physical strength and strong stomach. This was the main reason why many adepts lasted only few weeks or months. 

The profession of the executioner became hereditary, and boys were being prepared for it since childhood, other option was that butchers became executioners.